Thinking about an action is the sign of a novice in sports, or a key to transforming an expert back into an amateur
We have all experienced this as an athlete or have watched it occur to one of the athletes we coach. The moment in time when the stress is high. The game is on the line. The brain begins to kick into overdrive. I remember growing up, throwing darts in the basement of my parents house. Not to brag or anything, but I have won ALLLLOOOTTTTT of dart games down there. But I would get into a few games that came down to the wire. I needed to hit score some points or else I would lose. I began to think instead of throw. More often then not, those shots would never go well.
I've watched athletes that I have trained begin to think about a lift. Or think about a sports skill. And the rep would then deteriorate. They no longer trust their training. They revert back to being an amateur.
When you first learn a new skill, there is slow, conscious, and deliberate thought put into each and every repetition. Over time, with more practice, the thought process begins to speed up. And then, it becomes fast, unconscious, perceptual processing. These perceptual skills are developed through practice. These are the skills that separate the Tom Brady's from the Johnny Manziel's. It almost becomes thinking without thinking. It is unconscious thought.
Where does the problem start? When the unconscious thought becomes conscious. It occurs when the tennis pro begins thinking about their serve. Or the golfer starts thinking about making the putt. Or a young Chris trying to score 3 points shooting darts in the basement.
Next time you approach a pressure packed situation, keep this study in mind: University of Chicago psychologist showed that a golfer can overcome pressure induced choking in putting- what some people refer to as "paralysis by analysis" or overthinking- by singing to oneself, and thus preoccupying the higher conscious areas of the brain. So pick your song out and now and begin to practice singing that song like you're Justin Timberlake at the CMA's!
Hope you all have a great weekend!
Chris is a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist and member of the National Strength & Conditioning Association. He has recently served as a high school football and wrestling coach. Chris loves swinging kettlebells around, watching football and reading books!